Some people think routines are boring because they’re predictable.
But their predictability is what makes them beautiful, not bland.
Routines are about knowing yourself, what motivates you and making allowances for those things to happen as often as you need them to.
I didn’t use to have many routines.
I would wake up 15 minutes before having to leave for work, barely woken up or ready to greet the world as I hurried out through the door.
I rarely had breakfast and if I did, it would be a cigarette and a cup of coffee.
Past Carlos has always been a bit of an idiot. Or, slow learner, as he prefers to call it.
But time and age made me realise how much a lack of routine affected my day-to-day life.
I now strive to be more intentional in everything I do which includes embracing daily routines.
My routine is flexible in that I have a general idea of what I want, of what my intention is, i.e. read more. But the action itself is then shaped by the circumstances and limitations life puts on me, i.e. read whilst commuting.
Some things are new and I haven’t tried them for long enough to know if they work for me.
Good morning routine
- 04:50, get up, don’t snooze, including weekends
- 10 minutes, dream journal
- 5 minutes, brew a fresh cup of coffee and make porridge
- 30 seconds, drink 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar mixed with 500 ml tepid water
- 2 minutes, bowel movement
- 1 minute, pushups, 1x10
- 15 minutes, morning pages
- 60-90 minutes, focused work
- 30 minutes, read non-fiction whilst commuting
- 30 minutes, power walk for 3.5 km
- 0800, arrive at the office, second breakfast, last coffee
At 04:50, every morning my alarm goes off and I get up right away. Including Saturdays and Sundays. Occasionally, If I’ve gone to bed especially late I will turn off my alarm to allow myself a good night’s sleep. But I usually wake up at 04:45 either way.
Longterm, I want to be able to get up without any alarms at all—it’s an unhealthy shock to my cardiovascular system.
Before anything else, I sit down, take out my Dream journal and write down any dreams I can remember.
Sometimes it’s none, other times I’ll remember at least three dreams and I’ll make notes of the main events, people, locations, emotions I was having and the themes I recognise. I’ll make little annotations about bedtimes and times I’ve woken up.
I always check the time if I wake up during the night, but only for the purpose of the journal.
A better breakfast
After dream journalling, I’ll grind some coffee beans to brew myself a morning cup of coffee (black, no sugar) and then I make porridge (salt and cinnamon).
Right now I’ve got an Ethiopian bean called Ana Sora Guji Natural from Has Bean Coffee and its blueberry notes makes every morning amazing.
I don’t feel like I need coffee anymore but because I’ve stopped smoking, rarely drink and don’t do drugs anymore, this is the one vice I’m happy to keep.
Maybe Future Carlos will one day look back at this moment and think I was such an idiot.
The porridge, on the other hand, is essential and without it, my entire day will be shittier.
Drinking to thirst
Before I actually eat or drink anything, I chug half a litre of tepid water (with apple cider vinegar).
Whilst the idea of 2 litres per day has been long debunked—we get a lot of fluids through food—hydrating is still important and I drink to thirst for the rest of the day.
The apple cider vinegar is an experiment. Research seems questionable and I’m not sure it actually does anything at all. The intention, however, is to see if it makes my stomach more balanced so that I burp less.
Like clockwork, I then go for a shit.
I used to work out a lot more (45-60 minutes) in the mornings, now I only do a set of pushups (1 minute) for maintenance and letting my body know that it’s time to get to work.
For a few weeks, I’ve been trying to write gratitude pages in the morning but it isn’t really working for me in its current form. It feels like of a chore and I’ve become less and less motivated to write them.
Maybe I’m doing it wrong, maybe I’m not a very grateful person—who really should be doing the thing I’m reluctant to do.
I don’t know so I’ll need to review this and figure something out.
Together with the breakfast, all of this takes about 30 minutes after which I’m left with 60-90 minutes to do focused work, whether that’s writing, illustrations, research or anything else that needs doing.
This entry was drafted, edited, proofed and illustrated during a few of those morning sessions.
Reading to learn
At 06:50 I pack up my stuff and get ready to catch the train.
I’ll play on some instrumental piano or heavy metal to drown out my surroundings on the train and then read a non-fiction book.
Currently, it’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.
Let me know if you have a book recommendation. I especially want to widen my narrow perspective which is coloured by being WEIRD, that is; western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic.
My arrival at Cambridge is followed by a 3.5 km (2.2 miles) power walk to the office. It takes me just under 30 minutes and I really wouldn’t trade it for anything.
An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. Henry D. Thoreau
Arriving at the office
At 08:00 I arrive at the office where I have a second breakfast and brew another cup of coffee from the beans I brought.
This is my last cup of coffee for the day. The half-life of caffeine is 5-9h and I want to make sure I have as little caffeine as possible blocking my adenosine receptors in the evening.
Noon is my official cutoff time, but I usually don’t have coffee after 09:00.
I might have a fennel tea later in the day but often I’ll just drink water to thirst for the rest of the day. I like the idea of tea more than actual tea so far so if you have any recommendations, let me know.
Whilst I’m at work, I keep a pretty tight routine in regards to eating.
I’ll snack on fruits and nuts at 10:00. Heat last night’s dinner leftovers for lunch at 12:00 and have an afternoon snack at 15:00.
Good evening routine
- 16:30, leave office
- 30 minutes, power walk for 3.5 km
- 30 minutes, read non-fiction whilst commuting
- 18:00, no more phone or fluids
- make dinner, including leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch
- 20:30-21:00, bedtime
- cold, dark and quiet bedroom
At 16:30 I leave the office.
Power walking back to the train station brings my total to about 7 km (4.4 miles) and just short of 万歩 (manpo), the recommended 10,000 steps, originating from the invention of the Japanese pedometer Manpo-kei.
I then read some more.
Once I get home I’m meant to do evening pages as well, i.e. amazing things that happened that day and something I could have done differently.
But just as I’m struggling with the morning pages, I often find myself completing the evening pages the following morning instead of when I should be.
After 18:00 I put my phone away and stop drinking anything. I don’t want the blue LED light from my phone to disrupt my melatonin and I don’t want to have to get up during the night to pee.
I’m still working on these two as well as I’ll often have a glass of water too late and then wake up at night.
After dinner, Katy and I relax and hang out before turning to bed between 20:30 and 21:00.
The intention is to allow for an 8-hour sleep opportunity.
It’s cold (about 14° C), dark and quiet in the bedroom. The window above our heads is often open throughout the night, though a few days ago when the temperature dropped to -1° C we did close it.
I’m usually asleep within 15 minutes.
Your routines should be about you
Regardless where you turn, the single biggest advice that is given to anyone struggling to keep a routine is to get up the same time every day.
“But I like a lie-in on weekends,” I hear you cry.
Sleeping later on weekends won’t fully make up for a lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning. Stick to a sleep schedule. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker
Whatever you decide, consider establishing daily routines.
It’s taken me a while to figure out these routines and as you can see, some of them aren’t even that established yet. I may replace some of them with other bits, whilst others are doing me so much good that I would be foolish to ever let them go.
But from 15 minutes mornings to 3 hours ones, a lot can clearly change in a couple of years.
I now cherish the mornings, especially weekends.
Aside for running, it’s the only time where I’m alone and undisturbed with my thoughts, allowing me to acknowledge and heal the past traumas I’ve experienced.
So whilst some people say routines are tedious, I say they’re beautiful and your first step towards a more intentional you.
A step towards the self-care you might need.
After all, your routines should be about you.
And you’re not predictable or boring, you’re beautiful and unique.
Your routines should reflect that, shouldn’t they?